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My Father Loves Me

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Growing up was hard. I never heard that I was loved, so I believed I wasn’t. My father, an extreme introvert, took me to catechism classes and church, taught me rote prayers and prayed with me nightly. He is a gentle man, but unassertive, which I saw as a weakness. He was not the leader of our home. My mother was a controlling woman, who came from an affluent family that rarely mentioned God, let alone attended church. More importantly, neither parent ever told me that I was loved.

As a teenager, I sought attention, love and affection in the wrong places. Each attempt to fill the hole in my heart ended in emotional pain and heartache. I never looked to God for love. My perception of Him combined the characteristics of an emotionally detached father and a harsh mother. I wasn’t sure if God would strike me dead or just ignore me completely. Either way, love wasn’t part of the picture.

Then someone told me about Jesus’ love. It was unconditional, without condemnation and never ending—no matter what. I remember asking this person several times, “No matter what?” I was assured that Jesus’ sacrifice for me was because I had a Father in heaven whose love was so great that no amount of sin could stop it. In fact, He loved me so much that He gave His only Son, so I would have everlasting life. I was desperate. I wanted it. I believed.

It’s been a daily journey toward believing in the unconditional love of God. I often doubted and often faltered, stumbled and fell. But my faithful Father has never given up on me or left me. Through His love, God taught me how to love my children and grandchildren.

But 30 years after learning how much my heavenly Father loves me, I had yet to hear my earthly father say those words. I knew my parents loved me. They just didn’t know how to say it. Then, in August 2006, when my father turned 81, I heard the words I’d longed to hear all my life. I said, “Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.” And he said, “I love you.”

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